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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Habakkuk Asks God Tough Questions

Habakkuk Asks God Tough Questions
Habakkuk was a Jewish prophet who lived around 600 B.C during a violent and lawless time in Jewish history.  Habakkuk was upset and burdened by how far his fellow countrymen had turned away from God.  And he describes the situation in his country this way: “Plundering and violence are before me. There is strife, and contention arises. The law is powerless, and justice never goes forth.  The wicked surround the righteous and perverse judgment proceeds…” (Habakkuk 1:3-4)
Habakkuk’s two questions and God’s answers are found in the book of Habakkuk, one of the shorter books of the Bible.  Habakkuk’s questions are questions that Christians down through the ages have asked God, Questions that you and I may ask God when everything seems to be going wrong in our world. But then God’s answers to Habakkuk (and to us) are over the top!
Here is Habakkuk’s first question to God: “O Lord, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear?  Even cry out to You, “Violence” and You will not save? (Habakkuk 1:2) Habakkuk asks where God is when bad things happen?  Why does God allow violence and injustice to continue?  And why doesn’t God hear his cry and rush in and save good people from ruin? 
Habakkuk expects God to do something immediately. He expects God to come down and stop his fellow Jewish citizens from their selfish and violent acts against one another.  Make them be good. Don’t we ask God the same questions when our world is turned upside down?  And don’t we expect God to answer the way we decide that He should answer?  So why doesn’t He?
And God answers: – but not the way Habakkuk had expected!  God replies: “Look among the nations and watch – Be utterly astounded!  For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you.  For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans, a bitter and hasty nation, who will march through the breadth of the earth to steal lands that are not theirs…”  (Habakkuk 1:5-6) God is telling Habakkuk that He will use the evil Chaldeans to sack and burn Judah and eventually bring the Jewish people back to Himself!
God plans to send the proud and mighty Chaldeans, known for their violence and cruelty, to plunder the Jewish nation of Judah! Habakkuk is shocked beyond words!  God’s plan of using the evil Chaldeans to punish the Israelites doesn’t make any sense to Habakkuk at all! 
Habakkuk is trembling as he asks God a second question.  First Habakkuk goes on and on reminding God of how evil the Chaldeans are.  And then he asks God how He can use wicked men (the Chaldeans) to help fulfill His holy purposes since He is pure and righteous?  (Habakkuk 1:12-17) 
After Habakkuk asks God this second question he tells God that He will stand there and wait for an answer: “I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart.  And watch to see what God will say to me.  And what I will answer when I am corrected.” (Habakkuk 2:1) Do we, like Habakkuk, stop and listen and wait for God’s answers?
And then God comes back with an answer for Habakkuk’s questions– but more than an answer – God comes back with a “Vision”.  This is God’s answer – or Vision: “Write the Vision and make it plain on tablets.  That he may run who reads it.  For the vision is yet for an appointed time.  But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.  Though it tarries, wait for it.  Because it will surely come, It will not tarry.” (Habakkuk 2:4a) I believe that God is telling Habakkuk that his prayer for his people will be answered in God’s time. Not our time. But it will happen. Habakkuk can count on it.   
God speaks of the wicked Chaldeans and of all wicked people and of the punishment that they are bringing down upon themselves.  Even inanimate objects will curse their bad deeds! “Even the stones will cry out from the wall.  And the beam from the timbers will answer it.”  (Habakkuk 2:11) God will act to bring down the wicked as only God can.  He has ways that we cannot fathom. But God says that “The just shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4) The righteous person in his faithfulness and firmness, consistency, belief, faith and steadfastness, shall live!
And then God gives Habakkuk a peek or a “Vision” of the earth in the future, after evil finally has been overcome.  God tells Habakkuk: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord.  As the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14)   
God has given Habakkuk more than an answer.  God has given him a “Vision”!  A Vision of what God can and will do to answer his prayer for his people. Habakkuk’s prayer for his people will eventually be answered.  God has promised.  “The vision is for an appointed time.  But in the end, it will speak, it will not lie.  Though it tarries, it will surely come.” (Habakkuk 2;4A)   
And God will answer our prayers too if we, like Habakkuk, will ask Him and wait and believe.  God our Father also gives us not just an answer, but a ”Vision,”  A vision that will keep us moving on in faith. And He also sometimes answers our prayers in ways that we never would expect. Our God is all powerful and full of surprises.
Life is full of mystery, danger and uncertainty. The Holy Spirit shows up in the mystery and danger and through the uncertainty and gives us gifts of deepening trust and unexpected love. Our heavenly Father asks us to trust Him through it all, just as He asked Habakkuk. His promise to take care of it all is our “vision”, even though we can’t understand how. 
Habakkuk did not immediately see an answer to his prayer for his people. Things were still very bad in his beloved country.  And he knew that the evil Chaldeans would be coming soon. But Habakkuk had been to the “promised land” and he had been given God’s “Vision.” He knew in the end that the answer would come.  Habakkuk was satisfied and wrote this hymn of faith to God: “Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines:  Though the labor of the olive may fail.  And the fields yield no food.  Though the flock may be cut off from the fold: And there be no herd in the stalls.  Yet I will rejoice in the Lord.  I will joy in the God of my salvation.”  (Habakkuk 3:17-18)  Can we sing Habakkuk’s hymn with him when our world is falling apart?

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